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Sweeny: The New Yankees

By Sweeny Murti
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I'm still conflicted on how to approach this perceived new reality in Yankee-land. These are not George Steinbrenner's Yankees anymore. These are not even Hank Steinbrenner's Yankees anymore. These are Hal Steinbrenner's Yankees, and it means a little less seat-of-the-pants spending.

The Yankees not only used to be unafraid of the international market, they saw it as their market to monopolize should they choose. George Steinbrenner found a way to obtain players just the way the Yankees used to in the pre-draft days—using the Yankee legacy and bank account to their fullest.

But the expenditures were still relatively cheap. Initial outlays for Orlando Hernandez ($6.6 million) and Hideki Matsui ($21 million) were much, much less expensive than Kei Igawa (the $46 million bust). Even the mistakes cost less years ago. Remember Andy Morales? "Only" $4 million lost there.

But nowadays the hits and misses carry a bigger price tag. And with an already bloated payroll, the Yankees can't afford to make more mistakes. Assuming the Yankees re-sign Robinson Cano when he is eligible for free agency in two years, the 2015-16 Yankees will likely have around $90 million tied up in just four players (A-Rod, Teixeira, Sabathia, and Cano).

And with the new collective bargaining agreement set to take even bigger chunks out of the Yankee profits than they have already, Hal is attempting to do what his father had trouble with—showing some restraint. The magic number is $189 million, the upcoming luxury tax threshold (2014) that the Yankees have blown past every year since 2005. The Yankees are thinking of this number as a hard salary cap, and that means spending less aggressively on certain free agents and committing to some younger, less expensive players.

So does this mean that international flavors of the month Yu Darvish and Yoennis Cespedes will pass with barely a flutter registered in the Yankee Universe? With the tens of millions of dollars being estimated for players who have never played pro ball in the U.S., it might appear that way.

But as one agent said to me in Dallas last week, "Sweeny—they're the Yankees! They make $800 million a year!"

Yes, I know. That's why I'm still so conflicted about this new form of Yankee ingenuity.

*Gio Gonzalez rumors were thrown around last week at the Winter Meetings, and somehow the talk became how the Yankees could get the 26-year-old lefty from Oakland in a straight-up trade for Jesus Montero. An A's official made very clear to me last week that they expect multiple prospects for Gonzalez, who has a pair of 200-inning seasons already and can't be a free agent until after the 2015 season.

To be clear, a Yankee official told me recently that to date the Yankees have never been presented with a deal in that exact manner. Would the Yanks make such a move if it were? Well, it's certainly more debatable than the current asking prices.

*Bobby Valentine is not wasting any time getting into this Yankees-Red Sox thing. For anyone who thinks the "I hate the Yankees" comment was serious, take it from someone who was there when he said—it was purely in jest. But Bobby is a smart man who doesn't say anything without knowing it will turn into a story in this environment.

Then there are the comments reported in the New York Post this week regarding a conversation a Kevin Long had with Bobby V the baseball analyst about Josh Beckett's slow pace during games. Bobby V the manager has turned this into off-season Yankees-Red Sox fodder.

Bobby V might not make many friends in the Yankees dugout next season. But he's not paid to either. The 18 head-to-head games that begin April 20th will be must-see TV. I'm betting on more than a few screaming matches from dugout to dugout during the year. And Bobby V will probably love every minute of it.

The first meeting, by the way, will mark the 100th birthday celebration of Fenway Park. The first game at Fenway was played April 20, 1912 between the Red Sox and the New York Highlanders.

*Sunday's win helps Tom Coughlin's job status… for now. While talk for the past month on WFAN has focused on Coughlin perhaps losing his job should the Giants not make the playoffs, it brought this thought into my mind—if Coughlin is eventually let go, Joe Girardi—manager since 2008—would be the longest tenured of New York's nine pro sports coaches/managers.

*Staying with the football theme, maybe the Yankees would be interested in Tim Tebow as a potential successor to Mariano Rivera. They are pretty similar. Both are deeply religious and are better closers than starters.

Sweeny Murti

Should the Yankees open their coffers and spend, spend, spend? Sound off below...

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